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Yannick Nezet-Seguin On The Highs and Lows of the Orchestra's European Tour

Jan Regan
Yannick Nezet-Seguin at Royal Festival Hall in London.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s three-week swing through Germany, France, Holland and England left cheering audiences in its wake. Minutes before going onstage at London’s Royal Festival Hall for the final concert of the tour, Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns what made him the happiest.

David Patrick Stearns: The Viennese were the toughest. The Londoners were the smartest. The Parisians were...well, Yannick Nezet-Seguin explained it best.

YNS:  Maybe I was prepared to get more of a feeling of, hmmm, let’s see if they’re as good as pretend they are, and I didn’t see this.

DPS: Even in Vienna?

YNS: Oh. Probably there was, (laughs) until the middle of that Der Rosenkavalier suite and heard audience went hmmm…The rhythmic clapping in Vienna, that’s completely unheard of, for me. The best compliment in France was the silence - there was virtually no coughing or jewelry (laughs). Normally, Paris is the noisiest audience.

DPS: The peak, perhaps, was playing the Brahms Symphony No. 3 in Vienna. This was the composer’s city. And Nezet-Seguin was told where, in the concert hall, Brahms usually sat.

YNS: I looked up before the first downbeat and the place is empty. I imagined he was there. This was almost the moment of a lifetime.

DPS: Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 was generally greeted with appreciation, but maybe a bit of puzzlement. Nico Muhly’s Mixed Messages had a chilly reception in Amsterdam. But Nezet-Seguin stands behind those pieces, both written for The Philadelphia Orchestra.

YNS: Let’s put it this way. This program was put to show that we are a little out of the ordinary. It’s true that it wasn’t the wild applause, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it.

DPS: Did you ever regret it?

YNS: No! Never!

DPS: Not that he didn’t take local taste into account. Instinctually, he knew that Rachmaninoff was best kept out of Vienna. In other German cities, however, attendance was affected by close proximity to religious holidays. And in London, could anybody have predicted how the uncharacteristically warm, sunny weather affected last-minute ticket sale? These things happen.

YNS: The next time we might architecture it differently, but I still think the range it gave us as a window in Europe of what we do. And this is the bottom line.

DPS: Already, re-engagements are being negotiated.